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On Ancient Paths

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ll. 90-92: Acteon, Diana and the dogs.
ll. 94: shoeless—certain religious orders are discalced.
l. 97: Marlowe, “Faustus,” V, iii, 183.
l. 104: Phemios, the minstrel, was excused from death’s table when Odysseus killed the suitors.
l. 109: Demodokos was the blind poet to tell his tale at the banquet in Book VIII, but could not assuage Odysseus’ tears. Like Homer in blindness, and Milton.
ll. 110-111: Homer is speaking of Demodokos.
l. 112: Samson, Milton, Samson Agonistes, all blind.
l. 115: damascened refers to metal with a textured pattern
l. 117: Curved toward the same side in all directions
l. 118: Books of prophecy and wisdom purchased by Tarquin the Proud from the Sibyl of Cumae.
l. 119: Frost wrote a letter to F.S. Flint on 21 Jan. 1913: “ I was only too childishly happy in a company in which I hadn’t to be ashamed of having written verse. Perhaps it will help you to understand my state of mind if I tell you that I have lived for the most part in villages where it were better that a millstone were hanged about your neck than that you should own yourself a minor poet.” Quoted from “The Life of Ezra Pound,” by Noel Stock.
l. 120: The goddess of childbirth.
l. 121: syndetic --Serving to connect, as a conjunction
l. 121: ciccatrixed—scarred
l. 126: Ariadne gave Theseus the thread so he could find his way back out of the labyrinth after slaying the minotaur.
l. 127: Orpheus’ harp, which according to Horace could make the trees get up and walk as well as charm all hell.
l. 127: a book of poems by James Wright as well as a line in a poem in that collection; also what happens if an insufficient man should try to take the Golden Bough of the underworld; Aeneas could; James Wright is also one of the mute poets referred to earlier. He died of throat cancer.
l. 129: Beatrice at the opening of the “Paradiso” turns her left side to the sun and away from Dante; she is watching the eternal wheels that turn the heavens.
l. 131: Classical writers customarily referred to the three-headed hound, Kerberos, in the plural.
l. 132: loculus—a burial niche
l. 132: ossarium—a storage place for bones
ll. 134-5: from Michael Drayton (1594); from “Idea’s Mirror, Amours in Quatorzains,” called: “To the Dear Child of the Muses and His Ever Kind Maecenus, Master Antony Cooke, Esquire.” Drayton knew his Horace whose first sonnet opens the first book of Odes with a dedication to Maecenas. It is Drayton’s opening poem and invocation; it is my terminal poem, and stolen fairly. The last six lines deserve quotation, in light of the preceding pages: